def # 24 02/08/12
FREEHOLDERS UNVEIL 2012 SPENDING PACKAGE
TOMS RIVER - The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders unveiled its proposed 2012 spending package keeping to its
pledge of no surprises when it comes to the county’s budget.
"The proposed 2012 spending package totals $354,189,356. It covers the cost of providing services in a growing county while
coming in $4.1 million below a restrictive 2 percent spending cap," said Freeholder Deputy Director John C. Bartlett Jr.,
who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Finance.
The overall budget is up about $1.4 million or less than half of a percent.
"While property values dropped again in Ocean County, it is still important to remember we continue to be one of the fastest
growing counties in the state with the largest population of seniors and veterans," Bartlett said. "This budget reflects
the ongoing efforts of this board and its county departments to reduce costs and yet provide quality services and programs
to our citizens. This budget shows that this Board of Freeholders lives within its means."
Bartlett said the amount to be raised by taxation is $300,026,643, up $6.7 million, and the county property tax rate will go
up by .0184 cents to 29 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
"During the past few years, Ocean County has experienced substantial decreases in revenues and increases in nondiscretionary
costs like insurance coupled with a sizeable drop in the county’s ratable base," Bartlett said. "Combining this with meeting
the needs of a growing county has resulted in adjustments to the county property tax rate."
The budget will be formally introduced during the 4 p.m., Feb. 15 meeting of the Board of Freeholders and a public hearing
has been scheduled for the March 21 Board meeting which also begins at 4 p.m. The meetings are held in Room 119 of the Ocean
County Administration Building, 101 Hooper Ave., here.
"This is a bare bones budget, no bells or whistles," said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. "There are no new programs
or services. This sustains our core services.
"What this budget does is make certain that our streets will be properly maintained and safe, that nutritious hot meals will
continue to be delivered to our seniors, our most vulnerable residents will be provided with social services, and students
will continue to get quality educations at Ocean County College and at our vocational technical schools," Little said.
Bartlett noted the county’s salary and wage account is down by $358,102 in the proposed budget and the number of positions
eliminated in the 2012 budget nets 56.
"We have reduced the number of positions in county government by almost 200 during the last three years," Bartlett
Bartlett commended Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety, for closely reviewing the staffing
needs of an expanded Ocean County Jail with
Jail Warden Ted Hutler and County Administrator Carl Block and developing a plan that allows for new staff to be phased in.
The budget provides funds for 16 new employees in law enforcement.
"We are hiring 12 additional corrections officers for the expanded jail facility, which opened in October 2011," Kelly said.
"We are phasing in staffing increases so as to be fiscally responsible with tax dollars.
"Public safety is a priority for the Board of Freeholders," Kelly said. "We are doing all we can to keep staffing at the
appropriate levels while not creating an additional financial burden on the taxpayers who pay the bills."
Funding for Ocean County College and the Ocean County Vocational-Technical schools will remain at the 2011 levels in the
2012 proposed budget. Ocean County College is expected to receive $14,700,259 and the vo-tech school system is expected to
"During these difficult economic times it’s essential that our citizens have access to a quality and affordable education,"
said Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the vo-tech school system. "Both, our county college and our
vo-tech schools provide our citizens with the tools they need so they secure employment or boost their skill levels."
The budget provides an additional $234,573 bringing the appropriation for the Board of Social Services to $19,708,337.
"This budget provides a modest increase to the Board of Social Services in order to continue to receive matching state and
federal funds," said Little, who serves as liaison to the Board. "This funding is for the programs and services that are
helping to keep our needy citizens in their homes, with food on their tables while they seek new employment or skills."
Vicari added that funding for Senior Services will remain at $1.8 million.
"With the largest senior population in the state and the rapid increase of those 85 years old and over, senior programs are
growing more vital," Vicari said.
Overall departmental operating expenses have remained flat for the second year following deep cuts in department budgets.
"My colleagues and I, over the years, have relied on conservative financial planning to help us through difficult economic
times such as these," Bartlett said. "Over the course of this year as in the past, county government programs will continue
to be downsized, eliminated or put on hold as we hold down costs and remain affordable for the taxpayer. When you decrease
the amount you are spending, you subsequently must change the way you do business."
Freeholder James F. Lacey, who serves as liaison to Ocean County’s road system - the largest road network in the state,
said the proposed budget provides the funds that make certain county roads will be maintained throughout the year.
He added the $1.5 million proposed appropriation for stormwater management will have a direct impact on protecting and
preserving the Barnegat Bay.
Bartlett said the county will continue to effectuate savings throughout the budget year and will continue to look
at ways to reduce and cutback.
"It has been the policy of this Board to plan ahead in our budget process which has allowed us to stay ahead of
these difficult economic times," Bartlett said. "This budget reflects the realities of this county government. It will allow
us to keep our AAA bond rating, which helps us save money on interest, and provide vital services and it holds no surprises."